Tags: Rep. | Blunt | Seeks | Repeal | McCain-Feingold's | Attack | Freedom

Rep. Blunt Seeks Repeal of McCain-Feingold's Attack on Freedom of Speech

Thursday, 12 February 2004 12:00 AM

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., has signed on to the measure, just introduced, to “restore Americans’ First Amendment rights,” in the words of the prime sponsor of the repeal, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md.

The very fact that a major player in the House GOP leadership would affix his name to Bartlett’s bill sends an unmistakable signal to the rank-and-file Republican lawmakers, i.e., let’s get rid of this turkey now before it does us in.

And there are troubling signs for the Republicans that the so-called “finance reform” measure is realizing their worst nightmares.

As Richard Lessner, a top leader of American Conservative Union, noted at Bartlett’s news conference Thursday afternoon on Capitol Hill, billionaire financier

The stated purpose of McCain-Feingold, to “get money out of politics,” is “already not working.” He added MoveOn.org, formed in 1998 to save Bill Clinton from impeachment, was now spending $8 million of Soros’ money on ads in the election cycle, all thanks to the new “reform” law.

Bartlett’s bill would do away with the ban on advertisements by ordinary citizens and their groups outside the PACs, a ban that applies if the ad supports or opposes or even mentions the name of a candidate 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election.

Before even getting to the starting gate of Thursday’s formal introduction, the Marylander had secured the backing of such veteran lawmakers as Reps. C.L. “Butch” Otter, R-Idaho, John Doolittle, R-Calif., and Phil Crane, R-Ill.

Bartlett says some Democrats are also considering support for his bill. He named ultra-liberal Barney Frank, D-Mass., as one who had expressed interest.

Indeed, though Congressman Bartlett was surrounded by conservative supporters at his news conference, his bill received strong backing from American Civil Liberties Union, which frequently champions causes on the left.

ACLU’s Marvin Johnson called McCain-Feingold an “incumbent protection act” because the incumbents who wrote and voted for it normally have much higher name recognition in their re-election campaigns than do their challengers. For that reason, it is the challengers who might otherwise benefit from citizen groups' support during the 30 or 60 days leading up to an election.

Johnson ridiculed McCain-Feingold’s stated purpose of “getting money out of politics” as comparable to “burning down a house to roast a pig.”

“Far from “stamping out corruption,” the ACLU official argued, McCain-Feingold imposed censorship, “the sidekick of corruption.”

Congressman Bartlett said under McCain-Feingold, candidates now have free rein to “wait until the [30-60 day] blackout period to say whatever they want without worrying about negative feedback.”

Charles H. Cunningham, National Rifle Association's director of federal affairs, said his group’s 4 million members had a First Amendment (free speech) right to protect their Second Amendment (gun rights) freedoms.

NRA’s Wayne LaPierre says his group is exploring ways to get around the anti-free-speech effects of McCain-Feingold by buying its own radio and TV stations (the media conglomerates are excluded from McCain-Feingold's restraints) or by building an offshore broadcast facility.

One of Bartlett’s co-sponsors, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, says it is an outrage to give so much power to the media moguls. He said this was a lesson that we cannot depend on unelected judges to protect our freedoms.

It is believed that many who voted for McCain-Feingold — and President Bush, who signed it as reluctantly as Bill Clinton did welfare reform — did so just to get the issue off the table, believing that surely the courts would never approve such a perversion of the Founding Fathers’ intent.

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House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., has signed on to the measure, just introduced, to "restore Americans' First Amendment rights," in the words of the prime sponsor of the repeal, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md. The very fact that a major player in the House GOP...
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Thursday, 12 February 2004 12:00 AM
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